Smoke on the Water


Staff member
Feb 15, 2004
The Beach Strip
Posted with permission from the Hamilton Spectator
Wanted: 1,803 guitarists
Jul 31, 2009 Hamilton Spectator

(Jul 31, 2009)
Smoke on the Water. You either love it or hate it. But almost everyone, it seems, can play it. It's kind of the Chopsticks of rock guitar.

Bomp bomp bom, bomp bomp debom ... bomp bomp bom, bomp debom. It's that easy. And almost as recognizable as Beethoven's Fifth. Duh duh duh ... duh.

So what's so crazy about wanting to get 1,803 people together in one spot to play the Deep Purple classic in unison for just five minutes?
That's what it would take to break the current Guinness world record for the largest guitar ensemble.
Loren Lieberman doesn't think it's such a crazy idea. He's pretty sure the guitarists of Hamilton can do it. So he's challenging them to bring their instruments to the Festival of Friends on Aug. 8 and put the city on the world (record) map.
The record sits with Leinfelden-Echterdingen, a town of 36,000 people in southern Germany. (See, it put them on the map. Today marks the first time Leinfelden-Echterdingen has been mentioned in The Spectator.) Back on June 26, 2007, the town drew 1,802 guitar pickers for their own version of Smoke.
Despite many attempts to top it, that record still stands. There are reports of a town in Poland getting 6,436 people to perform Jimi Hendrix's Hey Joe. But the Guinness people haven't recognized the feat.
Just last month, Toronto tried a mass version of Neil Young's Helpless. Just 1,623 guitarists turned up at Dundas Square.
Lieberman, director of the Festival of Friends, says Hamilton is a guitar town and he's eager -- more than eager -- to show up Toronto.
"If 10 per cent of the musicians who say they would like to play the Festival of Friends turn up, we will break the record by tenfold," Lieberman says. "And really, as far as I'm concerned, the important thing is beating Toronto, to show them up. They stuck it to us with the hockey team. Now we get a chance to stick 'em back."

Lieberman has a history of shooting for the moon. At the 2005 Festival of Friends, he attempted to break the record for world's largest water balloon fight. After filling up almost 50,000 balloons, our local participants failed on a technicality. Some of the balloon fighters, caught up in the frenzy of the situation, crossed a forbidden yellow line. Oops.

Lieberman chalks it up as a learning experience. This time, all the t's are going to be crossed and the i's dotted.

Lieberman says Smoke on the Water is easy and well known. It's the first song a lot of people learned how to play. Toronto, he says, picked the wrong song.

"I love Neil Young," he says. "But Helpless? It's so depressing."

For the Aug. 8 record attempt, organizers want participants to stick to the original studio recording of Smoke on the Water, the one that's on Deep Purple's classic 1972 album Machine Head. You can hear it on There are tabs and chords for learners and you can preregister for the event.

Otherwise, just show up with a guitar at Gage Park between 11:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 8.

You must sign in or your strum won't count. Playing starts at 2 p.m.


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And just in case you don't remember, we didn't break the record.
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